As I was packing for our vacation, I asked myself: what do I really love to do? And the answer was obvious: I really love to read.
My friends who are editors, writers, and agents talk about this problem; you seek a kind of work because you love to read, and thereafter, you almost never pick up a book for pleasure.
So one of my happiness-project goals is to “read better.” I’m taking the time to read what attracts me, as well as ancient philosophers and modern scientists on the subject of happiness.
As a consequence of this goal, I resisted the temptation to cram my duffel bag full of duty-reading for the vacation. Instead, I took several substantial novels.
And once again, I was swept up in my intense, passionate love of books. I was struck, too, by the phenomenon of proximity: whenever I read several books in a short time, I see common themes arise in interesting ways.
The larger lesson of my happiness-in-reading experience is that it reminds me how easy it is to neglect the things that make us happiest. A friend told me that he loved to fish as a child; that he now lived a block from a fishing stream; that his wife had bought him a rod for his birthday. And yet he hadn’t found time to go fishing since he moved. This is craziness! Make time for it.
My happiness-project scoring sheet includes two entries: “read better” and “follow up my curiosities.” Because I now give myself credit for reading something for fun, I’m much better about doing it (I’ll do anything for a gold star).
Of course, a big part of the fun of the Happiness Project is that what I want to read and what I ought to read are usually the same. For example, this month’s theme is memento mori , or “Remember you must die” (I’m trying to think of a better phrase, but no luck so far), and I’ve been very interested in reading memoirs by people who survived catastrophe, divorce, illness, a child born with a disability, and the like. I checked out a big stack from the library just this morning.
Also, a sense of accomplishment is an important element of happiness. When unpacking last night, I made a stack of the novels I read while we were away, and I got a real jolt of pleasure by seeing the good reading that I’d done. In the past, I would have barely registered the emotion, but these days I’m trying to pause to revel in any flash of happiness.
For a while, I’ve been meaning to mention a great blog, Never Eat Alone. Lots of interesting material there on strengthening business and personal relationships. I had a special fondness for it because the author, Keith Ferrazzi, was at Yale when I was there, and then when I visited today, he has a post featuring words of wisdom from my former wonderful boss, Justice O’Connor. Check it out.